With NHL training camps set to begin next week, one of the league's Rookie Tournaments opened up in London, ON with the Montreal Canadiens squaring off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was the first taste of not-quite-NHL-but-close-enough action hockey-starved fans could witness and the game, although sloppy at times, did not disappoint. Things got off to a fiery start when Habs defenceman Dalton Thrower dropped the gloves with Evan Wardley of the Penguins. The Pens got on the board first when Oakville native Scott Wilson beat Habs net minder Zach Fucale after some frantic play by the Canadiens defencemen midway through the first period. The Habs tied the game up in the second when Jeremiah Addison scored after some brilliant puck protecting and passing by Patrick McNally. The two teams exchanged goals a couple more times before Montreal made it 3-3 in the last minute of the game when the puck bounced in off of comeback kid, Tim Bozon. The much-anticipated 3-on-3 overtime followed where after a few back and forth odd man rushes, Dylan Sprong scored the winner 1:18 into OT.
A couple of things stood out in this game; for starters, Zach Fucale was very good in a losing effort. With the Canadiens set in goal for at least the next five years, it'll be interesting to see what the team does with its young prospect. Highly-touted prospect Nikita Scherbak showed glimpses of his puck-handling skills but was virtually a non-factor in the game. Canadiens camp invitee Angelo Miceli made the most of his opportunities and showed some chemistry with linemates Jeremiah Addison and Patrick McNally; the kid has some soft hands and made a bunch of slick passes in the offensive zone. Penguins' stud defensive prospect Derrick Pouliot showed why the team refused to part with him as part of the Phil Kessel deal this past summer. He was making excellent breakout passes and standing the Canadiens up at the blue line the entire game; not to mention the kid's got wheels. Speaking of speed, second round pick Dylan Sprong was flying the entire night. The Penguins may have found a hidden gem in the Dutch forward and once he grows into his frame and learns to drive the net more he could very well be an effective top-six forward.
Tonight marked the first time that 3-on-3 overtime was used in an "NHL" game. The teams traded odd-man rushes and the game was over less than two minutes into extra time. It'll be interesting to see how the new format will go over in actual NHL games but one thing is for sure: there'll be a lot less shootouts but fans will still be entertained watching a little pond hockey in extra time.